By: Johnnie Maier III
Central Florida is known for many things, such as mice, ogres, fireworks, and so much more... but when the fall season comes, Central Florida becomes a stomping ground for the wicked, and the spooks come out to play. Most people will immediately find themselves looking to the numerous theme park experiences to scratch their Halloween itch. Just a short drive from the “tourist area,” you can find yourself at SCREAM-A-GEDDON. Knowing that it was a short jaunt over to the west coast of Florida, Eddie Gomez and I decided to take on this young, yet legendary haunt.
Voted #1 in USA’s best haunted houses for 2020, and located in Dade City, FL, SCREAM-A-GEDDON, Tampa Bay’s premier horror park returns for its 7th season! SCREAM-A-GEDDON features six horrifying attractions, located across 60 acres. The Monster Midway features carnival games, and a variety of food and beverages, including craft beer and wine.
Our night of thrills and chills started with us entering the gates of SCREAM-A-GEDDON, and being ushered onto a bus that was armed with a row of paintball guns, loaded and ready for us to take on the zombies in “Zombie Paintball Assault.” While not the most creative name for an attraction, it made up for it with the overall experience. The bus drove around different areas of the property, where zombies would attack from different angles. Our mission was to take out the zombies trying to attack the bus, before they took us out. This experience does have an up-charge, however, it was well worth every penny. It was a blast, and a very welcome change to the standard walk-through style attractions. Packages for this experience start at $10.95 for 100 paintballs, and go to $19.95 for 300 paintballs. We found ourselves laughing and smiling with delight for the duration of the experience.
After our encounter with zombies, we made our way over to Bonzo’s Beer Garden to sample a few of the local craft beers on tap. This area of the horror park was a great way to sit back, and watch the scareactors interact with the guests. This is also a great way to just relax, and recover after a few frights. The Bonzo’s Beer Garden had a selection of about eight different craft beers to choose from. We tried “Wicked Weed” and “Mango Cart,” which were both delicious.
After a quick cool down, we were off to “Ravenhill Asylum,” where the deranged and demented patients have been sealed inside since 1993. This attraction gives you the option to engage in an interactive experience by wearing a glow necklace. We chose to forego the interaction out of an abundance of caution for Covid (and a limited amount of time). Our assessment of this house is that it was scary, and very well done. The cast was intense, immersive, and in your face! We appreciated watching people get taken away from their group, and put into incinerators, and "lobotomized."
Next up on our tour of terror was "Demon’s Revenge." This attraction takes you into an old church in the middle of the woods, and while I do not scare easily, I must give a round of applause to the scareactors in the house for getting me on three separate occasions! This house was filled with demons, dragons, flying chainsaw women, and more. The technical highlight for me in this house was seeing someone harnessed in a zip rig, and using a chainsaw while flying overhead. That was a first for me, and I must say I LOVED IT!
click the arrow for more images (c/o Johnnie Maier)
Onward, we went towards the next house of the night, but not before being sidetracked by “Hell’s Hatchet Throwing.” Seven throws for $7 was a great deal. The target? A zombie. I did finally manage to stick the landing on the seventh throw, but I don’t see myself saving us from a zombie invasion by axe throwing anytime soon. This side attraction was a lot of fun, and the employee(s) working there are all helpful coaches in throwing. I definitely recommend taking a moment and testing your aim.
After that quick detour, we made our way over to “Rage 3D.” This house was an absolute delight. Typically 3D houses are poor attempts at illusion at best, but I will give this house a standing ovation for their use of effects to blend the characters into the atmosphere. We jumped, we laughed, we ducked, and all in all this house is just a good time. The characters’ energy matches the fun and festive dynamic of the house.
Adjacent to “Rage 3D” was “Blackpool Prison.” This was another interactive house with the glow necklace option. Again, we did not participate in the interactive elements. With that in mind, I will say that this house was fun without the interactive portion, but I believe the interaction would have added to the overall experience. I highly recommend utilizing the glow necklace, because while the inmates are terrifying, the necklace adds a little bit of a bonus.
Speaking of bonus, our final journey of the night took us to “Bloodwater Bayou.” This location is new for 2021 and packs a punch for sure. Incantations echo through the house, the walls and lights will shake, and scareactors come from everywhere. My favorite design decision in this house was the finale/exit. You are left to find your way through the cemetery, while chainsaw guardians chase you at every turn.
So let's get into the nitty gritty of the good and not so great aspects of SCREAM-A-GEDDON.
- The Theming: Many local haunts suffer from having a great idea for a theme to a house, and execute that theme for one or two rooms, and then lose sight of the original theme, and go to what I call, “spooky tropes,” such as the crazy hillbilly, or the recognizable movie icon. SCREAM-A-GEDDON does a great job of setting the tone, and maintaining the theme of each individual house. The scareactors all stay in character and aide in telling the story. My favorite themes of the night were “Bloodwater Bayou” and “Ravenhill Asylum.” While all of the theming hit the mark, those two houses stood out the most.
- The Organization: SCREAM-A-GEDDON was well organized from beginning to end. Parking was a breeze, and there were plenty of on-site staff to assist with any issues that may arise.
- The Event Space: It is laid out very well, lending to an almost carnival-like atmosphere. There was plenty to see and do, without ever stepping into any of the haunted houses.
The not so good:
- Proximity: Many of the actors will be very close to your person, and at times in your face. While normally I applaud the intrusion of personal space to create discomfort and elevate the uneasy factor, there were times that I thought it could have been dialed back in an effort to be more cautious considering Covid.
- COVID-19 Precautions: There were a few hand-sanitizing stations, and a few folks (staff) wearing masks. Largely, the event seemingly took little to no COVID measures. If you are highly concerned about COVID-19, this may not be the event for you (this year). As I mentioned previously, the performers will be in your face, and aggressive with their scares. My recommendation (not a doctor) is that if you really want to go, understand that it’s largely outside, and wear a mask when you are walking through the houses.
- Overall recommendations for ticketing: If you don’t like waiting in long lines, I highly recommend purchasing the General Admission VIP Fast Pass to utilize their alternate entrance. The longest we waited with this pass was about 30 minutes. If you are going later in the season, and do not want to wait whatsoever, I recommend the General Admission SUPER VIP Fast Pass, which will earn you an escort to the front of each line. Prices vary throughout the season.
If you are looking for an action-packed, low cost, high value evening of fun, look no further than SCREAM-A-GEDDON! When asked, “What were your thoughts on the event?” Eddie Gomez said, “In a time where haunted houses and horror venues are sprouting up everywhere, like vines on a trellis, fright seekers have choices on where to go. Pop-up Halloween haunts are not new, but have, in recent years, begun to improve the experience for those seeking the rush of adrenaline. SCREAM-A-GEDDON Horror Park has done just that. The scene is set, and while traveling to the venue, one would say it is like a scene out of Children of the Corn with the grisly location in the middle of nowhere."
SCREAM-A-GEDDON runs through October 31. Tickets and more details can be found here.